One of the claims to fame that the Internet can legitimately trumpet is its international nature. Anything you write has a chance of being read by anyone in any country in the world. It doesn't even matter what language you've originally written something in as translation facilities are sophisticated enough to overcome any barrier. (I've seen articles of mine reprinted on sites where my computer can't display the alphabet used or the only words I've understood have been proper names.)
If I needed any further proof of the international nature of the 'net, I don't even have to look beyond where I publish my own work. Blogcritics is an online web magazine with readership and contributors from all over the English speaking world, Desicritics offers content primarily aimed at the southeast Asian population scattered around the world, and my own blog, Leap In The Dark, is hosted by the Epic India portal operated by Indian author Ashok K. Banker.
I suppose this is old news to most of you, and it's something I usually don't give much thought to, either. I write something, put it out there, and people will read it or not. Under most circumstances there's nothing wrong with that, either. I write a lot of reviews of books, music, or films and most of my non-review material can be classified as general interest — topics that can cross cultural boundaries and political borders. It doesn't mean you are necessarily going to agree with me, but in most cases the frame of reference is universal.
A couple of months ago I started to write a semi-regular feature on Canadian politics for publication at all three sites. Looking back on it, I realize my motivations for this were in no small part influenced by a bout of latent chauvinism. Why, if there was so much being written about the United States by everyone, not just Americans, couldn't there be at least a little bit about Canada?
It's not as if we're some non-entity country with no role on the world stage. We've been a member in good standing of the G8 group of countries since its inception, part of almost every major peacekeeping force that the United Nations has ever sent out (heck, it was a Canadian who came up with the concept – Lester Pearson during the Suez Crisis in the fifties), a member of NATO since the beginning, and are still honoured in Holland and Greece for the part our army played in the liberation of those countries in World War II.
Given all that, why wouldn't people be interested in the internal workings of the country? Now I wasn't talking about reporting on local issues or anything silly like that, but some of the major political issues that face the country as a whole. Health care, federal elections, nefarious behaviour on the part of elected officials and civil servants, excesses committed under the new anti-terrorist legislation, our role in international situations like Afghanistan, and our social legislation which created a stir when we legalized same sex marriages or talked about decriminalizing marijuana.
While some of those issues did elicit lots of comments, anything about gay marriage is guaranteed to get people going. But a good deal of the time, especially when away from my own site, I felt like I was talking in a vacuum. Hardly anyone was interested in the issues that in Canada were considered a big deal. Even topics that affected our neighbours to the south, like the arguments over softwood lumber duties and the negotiations for a new treaty, didn't attract much attention beyond readership in Canada.
I began to wonder if anyone really cared about what happened in Canada. The fact of the matter is, why should anyone outside of Canada care what happens here?
Do any internal decisions that Canada makes have any real impact on the rest of the world? Perhaps if we suddenly imposed massive import duties on any goods where the equivalent is manufactured in Canada by Canadian companies (not subsidiaries of foreign owned groups) or slapped massive export taxes on natural resources that other countries depend on folks would take notice.
But that's not Canada's style. We don't hold other countries' feet to the fire; in fact we barely even let disputes fester for very long without looking for a compromise solution. What else would you expect from the country whose armed forces helped accept the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the United Nations? Outside of the hockey arena we are one of the most non-belligerent nations you're bound to meet.
The reputation Canada has created internationally (outside of a few pockets of very strange extreme right wing elements in the United States) is of such a benign nature nobody can believe anything we do will create any ripples that extend beyond our borders. Much like the northern Scandinavian countries, we produce individuals who play a role on the world stage, but are more concerned with the quality of life within our borders than about influencing lives beyond them.
Who but a Canadian is going to be interested in the Romanow report on Health Care and how its recommendations are being ignored by government after government? Is anybody outside of Canada going to care whether the Conservative Party of Canada fiddled the books so as to be able to solicit more money in donations? A change in government in Canada has nowhere near the implications of a change of government in the United States, India, Russia, or China for the rest of the world.
Now that I come to think about it, I like the fact that nobody is really concerned about what happens in our country. It means nobody is worried a new government might decide to start bombing them, think about cutting off their oil, or any number of other aggressive behaviours. Other countries know they can count on us to send aid in the event of an emergency and not look to see what advantage there is in it for us or attach any strings and conditions to it so as to exert influence on their social policy.
Other countries don't need to know who the Governor-General of Canada is or because we are a constitutional monarchy she is the titular head of our country to appreciate what we offer the world. Given the option of having people desperate for news about what's happening in Canada because they fear how it's going to affect them, and having them not being interested because they know there is nothing to worry about, I prefer the latter circumstance.
I'm not such a Canadian chauvinist, or egotist as a writer, to want people to read my articles on Canada because all of a sudden we are notorious. In fact my chauvinism says that it's a sign of our good quality that people don't need to read about us.